Jones' View

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Immigration: opening minds

Immigration is a hot button issue not only for our community but the presidential election and beyond. From people wanting to better control borders to those who insist that any immigration is a dire threat to our national security, it's a key talking point everywhere.

The majority of Americans have had the luxury of being born in America and never having had their citizenship rights come into question.

Sadly when people talk about immigration, they are thinking only of Hispanics. We have more than one border, and it is an issue of much more than one ethnicity.

Or what frustrates me is that some people don't understand the full process of becoming a US citizen. It's not like a person pays a fee, takes a test and then if they pass they get sworn in.

It takes years of filling out forms, paying fees, and work on learning for the test - and it really sickens me that there are people out there scamming those who are trying to do the right thing and become a legal citizen.

There are horror stories of people losing their life savings to supposed legal representation - people that ran off with their money, and since the victims aren't yet citizens, there's not much they can do but start all over.

Looking online on what it takes to become a citizen in different countries, America is one of the hardest and one of the longest such processes.

I almost have to laugh sometimes when I hear people demand that America have an official language and everyone should learn English. I agree to a point that knowing English makes life easier in America, but all I can say is that some of the same people who demand English as a national language should take a look at their English skills themselves.

I had an elementary school teacher who once failed me out of spelling bee because I could not spell "bear" right - I would have spelled it correctly but her pronunciation of bear was "bar"... that's how she learned it, so that was what in her mind was proper English.

I have spoken with people in Germany and Italy who speak better English than many of us who were born and bred right here in the heartland USA.

In speaking a language I go with the quote, "when in Rome do as the Romans." When I've traveled, I try to speak the language - not well but at least I tried. As long as newcomers here are at least trying, I think we should be fine with it.

In high school, I had a Government teacher give me a test that he stated was basic knowledge for someone to pass a U.S. citizenship test. From particular passages of the Constitution to nuances of history, I struggled to barely a 75 percent on that test - and that was the class high.

I am proud to be a U.S. citizen, and I prize and use my rights, from voting to of course freedom of the press. But as citizens, I think we should recognize that for those seeking to join us, it's not as easy as we might think. Giving a little encouragement wouldn't hurt.

* Reach Jeff Jones at jjones@stormlake pilottribune.com